A sad teenage girl sits alone. LIGHTSTOCK
‘Seeking help is a sign of being strong’
Therapists help people build hope and succeed in life
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Iris Gutierrez, a Spanish-speaking Catholic counselor in Lexington, Ky., recently joined the Counseling Assistance Program (CAP) offered by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro. Iris recently spoke with The Western Kentucky Catholic about the benefits of counseling to take care of one’s mental health.
The following is edited from an email and phone interview.
Why should people not be ashamed to see a therapist?
In the Catholic Church’s perspective, we need to take care of our body and our mind. People should not be afraid of seeing a therapist. Seeking help is a sign of being strong and positively impacts self-care by learning the tools to improve the quality of life. Professional help helps you to take better care of yourself and your relationship with loved ones.
What mental health challenges commonly affect the Latino community?
Latino communities in general may be more prone to experience these mental health challenges: Adjustment to a different culture, changes in the family dynamic, poor social support – those things could increase stress levels to impact functioning. Isolation and a language barrier could impact that too.
There could be increased anxiety, depression and alcohol dependence (to cope with stress) which could lead to legal/financial problems. And sometimes changes in socioeconomic status. It doesn’t mean everyone will experience these, but it can increase the risk of mental illness. I emigrated from Argentina, so I can understand the issues and values experienced by the Latino community.
If someone makes an appointment to see a therapist, what should they expect in the experience?
When someone makes an appointment to see a therapist, they should expect a non-judgmental, respectful and confidential conversation to build rapport, trust and engage in treatment that could address their own needs based on their abilities and interest. I have been a therapist for 30 years and serving in Kentucky for 21 years. I do have some clients in English, but since I have seen few mental health resources for Latinos in this region, the majority of my clients speak Spanish because of the human connection in their native language.
How can we help a loved one who suffers from mental illness?
We can help a loved one with mental illness by an honest and open dialogue about your concerns and helping that person to make an appointment. Never disregard their opinions and pay close attention about changes that may occur in different areas from, school, work, and relationships, to financial and legal issues. Mental illness could lead to bodily illnesses, according to the Mayo Clinic. If someone is at risk of self-harm or others, call 911 immediately.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro offers a program called CAP (Counseling Assistance Program). Through CAP, Catholic Charities collaborates with several counselors across western Kentucky who offer their services at a reduced rate for parishioners of the diocese. Each therapist in the CAP program agrees to practice within the teachings of the Catholic Church and is qualified to offer counseling for individuals, couples, and/or family issues. English-speaking counselors may be accessed via owensborodiocese.org/counseling. Spanish-speaking CAP counselors may be accessed via owensborodiocese.org/servicios-de-consejería.
Originally printed in the April 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.